Pursuing a better vision of eye health in India
The Rotary Club of Coimbatore Central, Tamil Nadu, India, has sponsored numerous projects to prevent blindness among thousands of Indians. Photo courtesy of Rotary News/Rotary Samachar.
The Rotary Club of Coimbatore Central, Tamil Nadu, India, is at the center of an international effort that has helped prevent avoidable blindness throughout the country for nearly 20 years.
According to the Blind Foundation for India, about 80 percent of the approximately 15 million cases of blindness among Indians are curable or preventable. Cataracts, corneal disease, and diabetic retinopathy are among the conditions that account for the scourge.
Concerned about this situation, the Coimbatore Central club partnered in 1990 with the Sankara Eye Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to preventing avoidable blindness and has several facilities throughout India. The club coordinated a US$167,000 Health, Hunger and Humanity Grant from The Rotary Foundation with support from Indian and U.S. districts that served a population of 1.85 million and funded nearly 10,000 eye surgeries over five years at the Sankara Eye Centre in Coimbatore.
Since then, the work of the Coimbatore Central Rotarians has only gained momentum. The club has headed up six Matching Grant projects, including an effort in 2007 that involved six districts from India and U.S. joining forces with a group of international charities to support a program that screens rural citizens over age 40 for diabetic retinopathy using state-of-the-art mobile equipment. Through 5,613 screening events, this Gift of Vision outreach program served a five-state area with more than 32 million people and provided over 362,000 free eye surgeries.
Clubs from several other countries have also worked with the Coimbatore Central club through district-level service projects not funded by the Foundation. A collaboration with the Rotary Club of Bremen-Hansa, Germany, for example, led to a multidistrict project that paid for about 1,500 curative eye surgeries. When Rotaractors in the Netherlands heard about the Sankara Eye Centre effort, they collected $23,000 to help operation rooms.
Adapted from a story by Varsha Makhija in the February 2008 issue of Rotary News/Rotary Samachar, the regional magazine serving districts in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.